July 29, 2014

Hewitt Homeschooling: My First Report (Curriculum Review)

One of the major changes to our upcoming 2014-2015 school year is a return to unit studies. We are a Charlotte Mason/Unit Study leaning family with a dash of classical thrown in. But our FIRST love, is definitely the unit study method. One of our favorite subjects for unit studies is Science; therefore, I was excited to get to review My First Report: Bugs and Worms by Hewitt Homeschooling which is a mini-curriculum of unit studies!

Who Is Hewitt Homeschooling?

Hewitt Homeschooling is a company based out of Washougal, WA, serving clients for over 30 years as they strive to provide products that promotes excellent academics and character development while instilling work ethic and community service. Since 1983 they have shifted their focus towards education--seeing the growing need to provide quality material for the homeschooling sector. Their products serve parents with children ranging from kindergarten age through high school.

For this review, I was given my choice of Hewitt Homeschooling's My First Report unit studies. These unit studies cover a wide range of topics and are ideal for grades 1-4. My First Report gently guides your student through researching a topic and writing complete sentences about it, rather than just filling in blanks on a worksheet. Students are able to practice language skills, penmanship and gain skills for using the library, dictionary, or encyclopedia. Each packet (documents come in an envelope), also contains a list of ideas for taking each unit into other subject matter like Bible, art, music, field trips, math, reading, social studies/science and more! There are lists of resources for you and your student to use to help find and complete each report. When used each report/lesson should last 1 week giving you enough reports to complete a quarter of school. Each of the My First Report units retail for $8.95, though you can save 40% by purchasing their My First Report: Set of 14 which retails for just $69.95.

Here is a list of their current units available:

*My First Report: Bugs and Worms
*My First Report: Large Mammals
*My First Report: Me
*My First Report: Plants
*My First Report: Birds
*My First Report: Eastern US
*My First Report: Famous People
*My First Report: Focus on the World
*My First Report: Marine Life
*My First Report: Middle US
*My First Report: Music
*My First Report: My State
*My First Report: Olympics
*My First Report: Outdoor Activities
*My First Report: Pets/Farm Animals
*My First Report: Reptiles/Amphibians
*My First Report: Small Mammals
*My First Report: Solar System
*My First Report: Southern US
*My First Report: Sports
*My First Report: Transportation
*My First Report: Weather
*My First Report: Western US
*My First Report: Lewis & Clark Expedition

I let Little Britches pick and he chose My First Report: Bugs and Worms.

How Did We Use This Product?

When the product arrived, it came in an envelope. All the papers were already hole punched (loved this!) so we put them into a 3 prong folder. I pulled out the idea sheets and other random extras that came with the unit as well as the blank final report pages. I liked right away that there were 3 different sizes of manuscript lines to pick from. I chose the medium sized one to use and then photocopied the blank report onto different colored sheets of paper and put them into the back of his folder.

I had Little Britches flip through and see the different bugs and worms that we were going to be researching and let him decide what to do first. He decided that worms would be his first report.

To complete these reports some supplies that you will want to have on hand include books relating to the subject (or access to the library), dictionary, computer for internet searches and videos, art supplies, Bible and a copy/printer to duplicate the blank report papers and penmanship papers.

Our lessons typically looked like this:
Day 1-Gather any books or other resources needed and work through each question on the sheet. 
Day 2-Pick 1 or 2 of the ideas on the idea sheet to do and define the vocabulary on the report
Day 3-Pick 1 or 2 more ideas from the sheet--or add in something else that works
Day 4-Rewrite the answers to the questions in full sentences on the included blank report page and draw picture in the box included.

Through the course of using this product, I was able to teach Little Britches how to use the index in the back of topical books to find information about his subject. Once he learned how to do this, he was able to independently determine whether we would be able to use the books we had for our creature.

Some of our creatures we did over 4 days and some just 3. If there weren't very many ideas on the sheets provided relating to our creature, we shortened the lesson. Likewise if it was one we had studied before (ants) we went a bit more quickly. But in general I found that I was able to get a good 3 or 4 days from each creature...spending anywhere from 20-40 minutes on the lesson.

I added in some activities when there didn't seem to be very many related to the topic. (A great aspect of this product. It's just a starting point for a full unit study!) We found a cool little website about a worm named Herman that was interactive and we could learn about it's life, anatomy and more--fitting in perfectly with the questions asked on the worm report. We also watched the old Walt Disney cartoon short of the "Ant and the Grasshopper". The boys both enjoyed that. I also had Little Britches dictate back to me the story after we watched and read it. I printed this off and added it to our file.

Here are some photos from our studies:

A sample of some of the ideas and activities included in the packet for the unit

We read several of Aesop's Fables to match whatever bug we were studying
One of the Proverbs included for copywork

A themed wordfind was also included in the packet

One of the activities is to learn the proper name for each creature...

I loved the list of songs that could be sung for each unit.
Three of the final reports that were written and illustrated.
As an additional side note: I was rather surprise when the product arrived and it was postmarked from my old hometown way across the country in the Pacific Northwest! My hometown is a very small town and would you believe I had never ever even HEARD of Hewitt Homeschooling prior to this?? And I lived there my whole life! The odds were incredible! It worked out that I made a visit back there earlier this month and I made it a point to visit Hewitt Homeschooling. Unfortunately, they were closed, though Devan Citron (their contact) returned my call later and apologized and said it was just "one of those days" and invited me to visit again when I'm ever in the area. I am hoping to pay them a visit the next time I am in town--probably next year. I DID take a photo of their sign (which I can't find! ARGH!) and peer in the windows. LOL!

What Were Our Thoughts On the Product?

Little Britches: 
"I liked being able to look at our really cool bug books and to learn more about them. I liked drawing the pictures and going outside to try to find or observe them. I really didn't like the writing part, but mommy helped me see that it wasn't TOO hard to do. But I really didn't like the writing."

I liked it. It wasn't one of those "this is amazing!" moments, but I thought that they were very well done. I liked that we could take it as far as we wanted and that I could build from the different activities that were included in the packet. We are more of a unit study family, so this worked very well for us and we all enjoyed being able to pull out our awesome science books we have to look for the information.

There were a couple things that I think could make it more user friendly.
#1 I'd love it if the teaching information that is included was grouped within each subject based on each creature covered. It would have saved a lot of time if all the projects for worms were together, or bees were together or ants. That would definitely make it more easy to use.

#2 If there was an "answer guide" to reference with answers to the questions included in the packet, it would have been nice for verifying our answers. We weren't able to get all the books that were included for reference AND our books didn't have the answers all the time. So we had to do internet searches and that was hit and miss.

Overall, I really liked the way that this curriculum worked. It was my son's first attempt with report writing and it gave him a great introduction to how it works. I found it easy to plan out our units and to supplement from the ideas that were provided in the packet. I also liked how I was able to incorporate using an index to look up topics--a skill we hadn't learned yet.

Would I Recommend This Product?

I would absolutely recommend Hewitt Homeschooling's My First Report series because it is a gentle unit study format. If you are wanting to try out a unit study but aren't sure where to start, I think these reports work very well because you can really build off of them. You can do a lot or just a little and still have it be a great product.

If you are looking for an "open and go" Science curriculum, however, this is not going to work for you. There is moderate prep work involved to figure out what you will do for each unit and you will need to gather more materials to complete the reports.

I think over all, these are a great SUPPLEMENTAL to any science program rather than a stand alone. I am definitely going to remember these as we continue in our studies in the future!

Want to Learn More About Hewitt Homeschooling?

Our family reviewed My First Report: Bugs and Worms which retails for $8.95. This is just one of their many products they produce. Want to see some of their other science products? How about checking out their Literature and Composition units? You can see what my fellow review crew members thought of these products and more!
Click to read Crew Reviews

To stay up to date on all their latest product and sales, you can follow Hewitt Homeschooling in these social media areas:

Google Plus:
Hewitt Blog: 

Thanks for checking out my review today! As always you can find a complete list of the reviews that I do by visiting my Curriculum and Product Reviews page! Thanks for stopping by! I will have another great review to share with you next week--one that I'm very excited about!
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July 28, 2014

A Pirate's Life for Me!: Collection of Pirate themed Resources {Poppins Book Nook}

Ahoy, Maties! It's time for a new theme for out monthly Poppins Book Nook Book Club! Last month we explore The Great Outdoors and I took you underground as we toured and read about caves. This month we'll be sailing the high seas and adventuring into all things Pirate!

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Please see my disclosure policy for full details and thank you for your support!

In our family, we keep the topic very light when talking about pirates right now. The boys are just into silly outfits, cool ships and funny turns of the phrase--focusing on pirates to be just adventurers of the ocean at this point in time. Which means we get to enjoy a lot of silliness when it comes to books about Pirates!

Here are the pirate books we checked out at our library this month:
It all started with a trip to the beach...next thing he knows Jeremy Jacob is snatched by pirates! He likes the pirate life at first...

This one is super cute and a follow-up to How I Became a Pirate! In this book, Jeremy is left to babysit his baby sister who is napping...that is until the doorbell rings and Jeremy's pirate crew arrive! Then it's all fun and games as the pirates learn how difficult baby sitting a screaming, stinky, hungry baby girl can be!

Both of these books have incredibly fun illustrations and simple fun stories for the boys to enjoy. We weren't able to get any activities completed this month, but I have put you together a list of some of the activities I was looking at to complete--this way YOU can have some to choose from!

Pirate Themed Lapbooks:

Pirate Themed Art and Crafts

Pirate Themed Worksheets

Don't forget the next installment in the Poppins Book Nook lapbook--Pirate themed of course!

Now before you head out to check out some of my fellow co-hosts, don't forget about this months Giveaway!

Poppins Book Nook Pirate Plunder Giveaway! Every month the Poppins Book Nook group will be offering readers a chance to win a brand new storybook or product that ties in with our theme for the month. This month we are partnering with Jennifer Altman an Usborne consultant to bring one lucky entrant a chance to win a copy of either the Pirate's Handbook(recommended for 8 years old and up) or Pirate Stories for Little Children (recommended for ages under 8 years old)books. One of these books is sure to add to your pirate fun!

The winner will be randomly picked by Rafflecopter and will be notified by Enchanted Homeschooling Mom via email and posted here. Entrants must be 18 years or older and reside within the United States. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook,Twitter, Pinterest or any other entity unless otherwise specified. Prizes will be issued by Jennifer Altman who is an Usborne consultant. By entering this giveaway you are also acknowledging that you have read and agree to all of the Rafflecopter terms & conditions as well as Enchanted Homeschooling Mom's disclosures found here. Just enter the Rafflecopter below to win:
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Thanks so much for stopping by! I hope you will check out some of my fellow co-hosts to see what kind of Pirate Adventures they enjoyed this month!

Enchanted Homeschooling Mom ~ 3 Dinosaurs ~ To the Moon and Back ~ Planet Smarty Pants ~ Farm Fresh Adventures ~ Growing in God's Grace ~ Chestnut Grove Academy ~ Learning and Growing the Piwi Way ~ The Usual Mayhem~ Preschool Powol Packets ~ Monsters Ed Homeschool Academy ~ Adventures in Mommydom ~ Teach Beside Me ~ Life with Moore Babies ~ Kathy's Cluttered Mind ~ Are We There Yet? ~ Our Crafts N Things ~ Hopkins Homeschool ~ ABC Creative Learning ~ Joy Focused Learning ~ P is for Preschooler ~ Laugh and Learn ~ A Mommy's Adventures ~ Inspiring 2 New Hampshire Children ~ World for Learning ~ Ever After in the Woods ~ Golden Grasses ~ A glimpse of our life ~ Journey to Excellence ~ Happy Little Homemaker ~ Little Homeschool Blessings ~ Raventhreads ~ Tots and Me ~ As We Walk Along The Road ~ Stir the Wonder ~ For This Season ~ Where Imagination Grows ~ Lextin Academy ~ The Canadian Homeschooler ~ School Time Snippets ~ Peakle Pie ~ A Moment in our World ~ Every Bed of Roses ~ Finchnwren ~ At Home Where Life Happens ~ The Library Adventure ~ Embracing Destiny ~ Day by Day in our World ~ Our Homeschool Studio ~ A "Peace" of Mind ~ Thou Shall Not Whine ~ SAHM I am ~ eLeMeNo-P Kids ~ Simple Living Mama
Have YOU shared books, crafts or activities with a pirate theme? If so, add YOUR links to our link up!
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July 27, 2014

Flourish: Balance for Homeschool Moms {Giveaway}

I am tickled to be sharing today's post with all of my readers! As many of you know, last week I shared a book review on the incredible book Flourish: Balance for Homeschool Moms by Mary Jo Tate. As my review shared, I did not start out very excited about what the book might offer thinking I didn't "need it". But it didn't take very long before I was sucked into the book and faced a major wake up call. I became enthralled and wanted to read more and more about how I can stop running around in circles, stop wasting my precious time and start FLOURISHING in my life and God given role as wife, mom and homeschooler.  I was so impressed with what this book entailed, that I immediately wanted to share it with others! I think...no, I KNOW that this book will help another mom out there struggling to survive in her day-to-day endeavors--could it be you?!

Here is your chance to snag a copy of this book for yourself! I have two copies up for grabs to two randomly drawn winners. The rules are simple--use the widget below to earn yourself entries. These are easy ways to get entered to win and with one of them, you can enter daily to stack your odds!
Remember to leave your NAME when you leave your blog comment--anonymous entries will obviously be disqualified as I can't contact you!

This giveaway is open to US and International entries--however, an international winner will receive a KINDLE copy of the book rather than the physical. I want moms from ANYWHERE in the world to have a chance to get this book and this is the best way I know to make sure that it a possibility without a great expense. Winners will be announced once the giveaway is over. 

Giveaway is open from July 27-August 10, 2014. 

I hope that you will share this giveaway with any mom that you know needs a chance to FLOURISH in her life! I look forward to sharing my journey to Flourish with you as I move forward!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Thank you for stopping by and I truly hope that I will be seeing you again very soon! Have a delightful day and use it to bless someone with a smile!

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July 25, 2014

Random 5 for Friday ~ July 25th

The Pebble Pond
Click to join in this week!
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1. Our weather is beautiful! Though we started our week with the 90's and horrible humidity, it suddenly cooled off yesterday and the last two days have been absolutely ideal! Low 80s without any humidity. Cool nights that need a blanket for sitting on the porch. It makes harvesting our crops so much nicer when you aren't sweating to death!

2. I'm really enjoying my adventures in canning. This year is my first year using a pressure canner. I actually am working on a post all about my adventures in canning. It's been rather fun and I love seeing my jars are lined up when I'm done.

3. Speaking of harvesting our crops...we did our first corn from the garden. Last year our corn, though it got HUGE, didn't end up putting out very good ears. Actually we think we got them over ripe. But this year. The weather has been ideal corn weather. I also went with a new variety of corn (still heirloom and organic) and it has done well! We just ate our first ears at lunch and...THEY. ARE. AMAZING. My husband says we will only buy this corn from here on out. 

4. Living to Flourish. I am still amazed at how much the book Flourish: Balance for Homeschool Moms really touched me. I ponder on sections from it all day long and find myself bringing to mind so many of the concepts. If you haven't read my review yet, please consider it--I had such a great time putting my thoughts down. And on SUNDAY I have a Flourish Giveaway going LIVE! Yep, I decided that I need to bless two OTHER ladies with this book. So make sure you come back on Sunday and get entered to win!

5. The weekend. My sister-in-laws are in town this weekend. One from Cincinnati and the other from Arizona. We also have their cousin (who is like a sister to them) in town from Oregon. So it appears that a chunk of extended family has decided to swoop down onto my in-laws farm tomorrow. Winnebago and all. My father-in-law is panicking because he doesn't like lots of people on his property AND he can't stand his extended family. LOL! I guess someone got the bright idea to feed everyone so now there is this big old weenie roast planned. Sigh. At least I got off only having to provide devilled eggs. I have LOTS of eggs. LOL!

Something else exciting for the weekend--my husband will be giving his very first ever sermonette at church tomorrow. He is an introvert and has stage freight. He has avoided the speaking list for the last 12 years...but our new pastor approached him last fall and asked him to consider it because some of the older men have been impressed by my husband's speeches in their Men's Spokesman Club. Love-Of-My-Life is scared to death. He is a bit comforted by the fact that they have another Spokesman Club tomorrow BEFORE services and he can give his sermonette a run-thru for his speech. But it doesn't make it THAT much better. 

I assured him that no one has died from giving a sermonette.

He gave me a look and said "There is a first time for everything."

I reminded him of one of my most favorite scriptures:
This is my beauty of a dahlia in my front flower bed. Gorgeous.
So he's a nervous wreck right now. But he did give me his rough draft to read and it's very very good. I especially praised his introduction and he was relieved. He says he spent 2 hours writing and re-writing it. All I know is he didn't come to bed until 1am. And I expect he'll do that again tonight as he does his final touches.

Have a most excellent and joyous and blessed weekend, my friends!

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July 23, 2014

Chats on the Farmhouse Porch #149 ~ July 23rd

I am always eager to see the questions that Patrice has for us each week on Everyday Ruralty...here are my answers for week #149!

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Please see my disclosure policy for full details and thank you for your support!

1. Other than those who live in your home, who's the last person who came to your front door?
That is easy. My piano student. Those are the main non-family members who grace my doorstep!

2. Do you have many photos around your home?
No. I have many printed out but I am HORRIBLE about actually getting them framed and up on the wall. Like I have photos from when my boys were 2 years younger that need to go up. They've been printed off for QUITE awhile...but sadly not in a frame yet. (note to self: buy frames for those pictures)

3. Do you like mint? Is there a favorite type of mint for you? How do you enjoy it?
I do like mint. I actually think I prefer spearmint. I have really learned this since using my essential oils. I love the many things that peppermint oil is used for health-wise...but I greatly prefer the smell of spearmint in my diffuser. It's like a happy smell. Spearmint and Lime is one of my favorite combos for my diffuser. I also prefer spearmint gum to peppermint gum. Same thing for tea...though lately I've enjoyed mixing the two loose herbs together. Yum!

4. Do you enjoy your own parties and other times with guests, or are you so busy working...?
I do love parties and guests! But living on the farm we don't do it very often. I had a delightful big BBQ planned for a bunch of my fellow homeschooling friends here, but then my grandpa died and I had to fly back to his memorial the week right before the BBQ was going to be. Big bummer. But everyone promised to "Save the Date" for a fall BBQ in a couple months. Looking forward to that. I love being hospitable!

5. What do you want to be when you grow up more? Job, hobby, self improvement, etc.
Better at the many "jobs" I already do. Predominately I want to be less "fly by the seat of my pants" and more organized and goal driven. This is something that was brought to my attention in my soul searching while reading the latest book I reviewed Flourish: Balance for Homeschool Moms. (You can read my review on the book if you haven't already)

I am excited to announce that on Sunday I will be kicking off a Flourish giveaway! I am giving away two copies of the book because I just have enjoyed it and love it so much--I want these books to help two MORE moms!

Make sure you subscribe via email (see upper left sidebar) to stay up to date on the giveaway--or you can *like* Farm Fresh Adventures on Facebook to stay in the know!
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July 22, 2014

Fresh from the Bookshelf ~ Flourish: Balance for Homeschool Moms (Book Review)

Flourish. What does this word mean? When I think of a garden flourishing, I envision a garden that is lush and green with fruits and blossoms everywhere. When I think of a person flourishing, I think of someone who has a handle on their life, knowing what they want to do and are doing it with zeal and passion. Does this describe you? Do you flourish? If you are a homeschooler and/or stay-at-home mom like me, you might laugh at this idea as being something ridiculous. Who has time to flourish? I'm just trying to survive! Right? It is for this very reason that I am excited to share a book review with you today of Flourish: Balance for Homeschool Moms from Apologia Educational Ministries.

About the Book

Flourish: Balance for Homeschool Moms is a non-fiction book written by Mary Jo Tate (a homeschooler of 4 boys, published author, international editor and book coach) and published by Apologia Educational Ministries. Flourish is a book for moms. Especially moms who are trying to be homeschool teachers. Even more so, for moms who are trying to be homeschool teachers as well as working from home. Flourish addresses the issues that a lot of moms face--from time management to setting goals, to dealing with interruptions to managing your household to starting a home business or working from home...and much more! Each chapter tackles something that a mom might face and then analyzes it in detail.

Chapter Titles:
1. An Invitation to Flourish
2. Change Your Mind to Change Your Time
3. The FREEDOM Toolbox
4. Where Did My Time Go?
5. Aim High: Setting Goals
6. What Do I Do Next?: Seven Essential Planning Tools
7. We Interrupt This Program
8. It's Time for an Attitude Adjustment
9. Oxygen Masks and Monkey Bread Days
10. Training Your Children
11. Making Memories
12. Managing Your Home
13. All of Life is Learning
14. Solo Act: Flourishing as a Single Mom
15. Home Business
16. Moving Ahead

Within each chapter, the author analyzes aspects of life as a mom under the umbrella topic. Flourish is rich with quotes--quotes from moms, quotes from famous people and authors as well as quotes from the Bible. At the end of each chapter is a section called "Take Action!" which includes questions for you to ask yourself relating to what you just read. Sometimes they are open ended and sometimes they just ask you to think. At the end of the book, you will find an Appendix A and Appendix B. Appendix A includes valuable resources for taking what you have learned further--mostly lists of books and websites. Appendix B contains all the of the worksheets and forms that the author mentions throughout her book--or that she asks you to fill out as part of the Take Action! portion.

Each of these forms will be available as customizable versions for anyone who purchases the book. Flourish: Balance for Homeschool Moms is available from Apologia for just $15. There are samples of the Table of Contents and book for you to check out too.

My Thoughts On Flourish

Let me honest with you. Though I agreed to read this book, I really didn't think it was going to be "my style". I avoid "self-help" books. I just don't like them. I admit this just might be because I think I don't need them--which is probably a cry for help in itself. LOL! I put off reading this book for about week before I opened it. I got myself ready for it by printing off all the included forms before reading to have them ready. I looked at them and just got more skeptical. Time log? Goals? Lists? 


But I decided to keep an open mind(ish) attitude and just embrace the book and see what happens. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that unlike some books in this genre, the author wrote Flourish in more of a dialogue style. I felt like I was just reading a blog post that she was sharing with me. Would you believe that I was already changing my mind about the book by page 1? What did it? Oh I think it was the list of challenges she gave that moms face in their lives. I read them and started checking them off in my mind. Hmmm. Perhaps this book could be useful. By page 4, I was highlighting sentences and quotes. And I was hooked.

The first Take Action! is a Pre-Book Self Evaluation which then guides you and obtain the most out of the book that you can get. And it also gives you something to use to measure your progress. I was flying on a plane while reading this book and didn't have my printed forms...but it was easy to just copy my answers down into a notebook because there are copies of each form in the back of the book to reference.

As I continued each chapter of the book I made myself "keep it real" and discovered that there were many times it felt like the author had been peering in my windows and observing me. I even got...uncomfortable at some of the analysis and critique. Why? Because it was like she was laying out my character faults right on paper. Debunking all my excuses for why I do things the way I do and why I "can't" change.

An example of this was in completing the time log for a week. This was part of the chapter Where Did My Time Go? (chapter 4). The author urged me to fill out a time log for the week in 30 minute intervals. To note everything that I did within those minutes-whether folding laundry, fixing dinner, taking a shower or use Facebook.

This really gave me an honest peek at how much time I waste that could be used for something more valuable that I always claim "I don't have time for." I am going to be using this form several times over the coming months to see if I show any improvement and to keep myself accountable--there were some SERIOUS time wasters on there.

One of the chapters I thought would be "useless" was the one on goals. I never considered myself a real goal setter--so I sure didn't need to read a whole chapter on something I didn't do...right? Ha! I really learned how the process of setting daily/weekly/monthly/yearly goals can be valuable to a homeschooling mom--even outside of the school. The more I started thinking about it and the more in depth I wrote for the Take Action! the more excited I became. I do have goals for a LOT of things--and I WANT to achieve them! (That's going to be a whole other blog post!)

There was one chapter that I had to take a deep breath for before reading it--especially once I realized how much I needed this book. I knew that it was going to be the chapter of serious soul searching...Managing Your Home (Chapter 12). I am not the worlds best housekeeper. I love a clean house. I LOVE organization. But I HATE the process. Dust bunnies are our family pet. Dirt is a color I have grown use to--I mean I do live in a farm and have boys. Dirty dishes are a permanent decoration on my kitchen counter. Get the point? LOL! Anyways, I was leery but also excited about this chapter.

It didn't let me down, but it was this portion that REALLY was the "Aha!" moment.
Let me tell you. I drew great comfort from reading this section and plan on re-reading it again and again. The Take Action! portion was also very helpful.

There were two chapters that were geared specifically to single moms and working moms. Though neither of these pertained to me, I read them because I do have friends who fit both these categories. I found them still very useful--especially the list on page 219-22 titled What Single Moms Need. It shared things I never even considered and things I can remember.

Would I Recommend Flourish?

I would absolutely recommend Flourish: Balance for Homeschool Moms. As I was reading it, I kept thinking of friends who "totally need to read this". Some of them aren't even homeschoolers! That's the beauty of this book; though primarily geared towards homeschool moms, I really think that you can find value in this book whether homeschooling or not. It's just a book for MOMS! There is something in there for every mom dealing with the burden of all the hats she wears. I think the author, Mary Jo Tate, touches moms because her own experience as a single, working, and homeschooling mom gives her credibility. She KNOWS what she's saying because she's lived it--and continues to live it. The way she shares HER struggles really helps tap into the heart of what the book is about.

The quotes alone are worth it...they are so inspirational and encouraging. This one by Sally Clarkson was one of my favorites in the book.

I have found the included forms (available in the Appendix B and as a download with purchase of book) to be very valuable--even though I dreaded the idea of using them at first. I am absolutely going to be keeping this book for reference and encouragement, and to loan out to friends. My next step is to complete the Post-Book Progress Check to see how things have changed in my thinking since completing the book. There is so much that I want to delve back into further--I see myself writing several blog posts about these subjects and my experiences with them as I endeavor to FLOURISH in my own life!

Want To Know More?

You can get your own copy of Flourish: Balance for Homeschool Moms by Mary Jo Tate from Apologia Educational Ministries for just $15! Included with your purchase will be the downloadable forms that are mentioned in Appendix B of the book.

Did you know there is a Flourish Facebook Group? You can also follow the author Mary Jo Tate on Twitter!

You've only read my experience with this phenomenal book...how about you check out what other members of the Schoolhouse Review Crew thought about it! Rumor has it this book touched many of us in ways beyond expectation!

Click to read Crew Reviews
I can't wait to really share some more posts about how this book has changed the way that I plan on doing things in this upcoming year--in this upcoming month--in this upcoming week. It will be exciting but downright scary to share my journey to Flourish...but I think that blogging about it will be my accountability. I hope you will continue to check back in with me to see how I'm doing!

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July 16, 2014

Fresh From the Bookshelf: A Match of Wits by Jen Turano (Book Review)

Last year I had the pleasure of reviewing A Talent for Trouble by Jen Turano, book #3 in a series (Ladies of Distinction) that I fell in love with right after reading book #1 (A Change of Fortune). Needless to say I've been on pins and needles for the 4th book in the series to come out and was delighted to be offered a copy of A Match of Wits to review! 

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Each book in the Ladies of Distinction series by Jen Turano revolves around a set of friends in high society New York in the late 1800's. Book four finally gives the much awaited story of Agatha--a quirky, constantly in trouble, impetuous, adventures, gifted journalist, and kindhearted young lady. From near the beginning of the series, we the readers were privy of the fact that Agatha was in love with Zayne...brother of her dear friend Arabella (her story is in book #2). This book FINALLY tells Agatha and Zayne's story!

July 11, 2014

Chats on the Farmhouse Porch #147

Click here to add YOUR answers!
Patrice at Everyday Ruralty has another great collection of questions for our link up this week. I just love having the bits of randomness to share. 

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Please see my disclosure policy for full details and thank you!

1. Do you like cucumbers? Is there a favorite way for you to prepare them?
No. I am not a cucumber fan unless in the form of sweet pickles. I do enjoy pickles and canning pickles. We lost our whole crop last year (as did most of the gardens in our area) due to a horrible blight, but this year they are looking lovely! 

I really enjoy using my re-usable canning lids when I can now. They work perfectly and eliminate the lid cost each year. I can get them in wide mouth and regular mouth which is perfect. I prefer using wide mouth jars for things just like pickles! Lots of hands go into those jars! LOL! When we are done using a jar, we just put the reusable lids in a ziplock bag in the pantry. 

2. How good a housekeeper are you?
Define good...I enjoy a clean and tidy house, but I am definitely not OCD about it. In fact I am rather...ahem...messy at times. My house looks lived in, but I do enjoy a sparkling clean kitchen and bathroom! :) Just ignore the cobwebs and dustbunnies everywhere else.

3. Please finish this: To spend a day____________would be amazing!
To spend a day....zip lining and/or white water rafting would be amazing! I love both of those things and haven't done them in awhile. I always wanted to do one of those really big ziplines where you go for a few miles over a rainforest or something. But I also love white water rafting and haven't been in about 12 years.

4. How do you handle times when you are "down" or "blue"( depressed )?
I have a few things I like to do:
*I put on some good music...usually the classic oldies. You can't help but get cheerful when "Splish Splash" comes on.
*I spend some time chatting with my friends. They always make me feel better.
*I open up the Psalms. King David can bring anyone out of the dumps!
And when I'm REALLY in the dumps--which like hardly ever happens--
*I get down on my knees and start counting my blessings and thanking God. I don't go very far before I realize I have nothing to be depressed about.

But I'm very much a glass half full kind of person so I hardly EVER get blue...

5. Have you started using essential oils, since they have become so popular?
Oh yes. If you are a regular reader you know that I totally love my essential oils. I've been using them regularly for about 2 years now. I own about 25 singles or blends and use them daily. I purchase oils from three companies that I am very very happy with: Mountain Rose Herbs, Aura Cacia and doTERRA. Most of my oils are from Mountain Rose Herbs and Aura Cacia--as they are singles. I have had great success with them both and believe they are each high quality--and I've heard and read that they are both ranked in the top 5 oils...side by side with Young Living and doTERRA. I use doTERRA exclusively for oil blends. My favorite blends have some expensive single oils in them, so it is far less expensive for me to buy them pre-blended instead of trying to blend them myself. My favorite blends are: Breathe, On Guard and Serenity. I don't sell oils--but I read and learn about them as much as possible to help my family and friends. We have had great success with them--especially for every day ailments like colds, fevers, wounds, stings and sore muscles. 
I am so thankful to be home from my whirlwind trip back to WA for my grandpa's memorial service. My boys are happy to have me back. I'm thankful to be back in the country away from the city. I'm happy to pick my green beans and lettuce. To hang my clothes out on the line. Sigh. I love this country life.
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July 8, 2014

WriteShop Primary: Book A (Curriculum Review)

I have always believed that we have not done enough writing in our homeschooling. We have worked on handwriting itself, but the concepts of writing and focused attention on creative writing is something we've not had any experience with. When the opportunity arrived to review the writing curriculum WriteShop, I was eager to give it a try and waited for WriteShop Primary: Book A Set with anticipation.

What is WriteShop?

WriteShop is a homeschool curriculum designed to help children succeed at writing and for teachers to succeed at teaching it! Whether a new or veteran homeschooler, WriteShop helps you teach with confidence! WriteShop provides the step-by-step process needed to take ideas through brainstorming, pre-writing, writing projects, editing and revising and finally publishing using crafts, games, picture books, lapbooking and other projects which kids will enjoy. 

WriteShop offers a variety of levels for your student including:
A Primary level for ages K-3rd
WriteShop Review
A Junior level for grades 3rd-6th
WriteShop Review
WriteShop Review
WriteShop also offers a junior/high school level course as well called WriteShop 1 & 2

The books do not have to be done in order, thus it's best to view samples and hard copies for each book to find the best one for the level your children are at. Many of them cross over to allow for reluctant writers who need to bring their skills up to par. Some of the books are only available as print copies, while other sets can be purchased as e-books for your convenience.

After looking at the very helpful sample pages for each of the levels of product, as well as reading about the recommendations for each level and placement suggestions, I decided to go with WriteShop Primary: Book A ($29.95) with the Primary Activity Pack, Book A ($5.95).

How Did We Use the Product?

I chose the WriteShop Primary: Book A because although my son is heading into 3rd grade level work this fall, I did not feel like his writing skills matched where he "should" be based on what we have done thus far in his schooling. I examined all three of the primary books and after reading their descriptions, I noticed that Book A was good for a reluctant 2nd grade writer which is where I basically considered Little Britches to be. I still wasn't 100% sure that it was the right choice, but decided I'd rather have it be on the easy side of things in the long run. I dove into our books once they arrived.
The teachers guide was a nice spiral bound book--my favorite kind. The beginning of the book is full of great introduction information about how to use the program and explains how the book is set up. One of the most helpful things right off the bat was seeing the different schedules in the books introduction, that could be used to teach this curriculum--including one that moves faster to bring an older writer up to speed. I decided to use that schedule for our review.

I love that in the introduction portion of the teachers guide, it states that to be flexible is the key...that if things are easy move faster and if things get harder, slow down. This is my kind of curriculum---move the speed of the child.

The teachers guide also provides you a list of the kind of materials you will need throughout the lessons.

I decided to check out lesson one...and kind of groaned. It started off with a guided writing practice. In fact this activity is part of every days lesson work (which you can see from the above schedule). Problem? It was wayyyyyyyyyyy too easy. In fact, as I flipped through the book I realized that every guided writing practice was ridiculously easy ---for my almost 3rd grader. Now if it was a Kindergartner and the first introduction to writing, it would be different and it would be VERY useful and helpful. 

Remember that I chose this book knowing it was for K-1st grade OR a reluctant 2nd grade writer

Thus, I quickly decided that every week we would SKIP the guided writing practice. It made my son's eyes glaze over it was so easy. LOL! Once we decided to skip it things moved along much better. 

Just in case you want to know what the Guided Writing Practice is...it is a routine done every single day following the same method every single day where it is a dialogue between parent (teacher) and student to teach them to speak in complete sentences and learn that sentences go together to make little stories. But they were SO repetitious that they were boring for us and not helpful at all. Here are a couple examples of the ones we did at the beginning.

I might say "What would make a big pet?", "what would be a funny pet", and then "What would be scary pet?" and I write their answer in full sentences.
After doing two days worth I decided this was just a waste of time for us...

It wasn't too long into this curriculum that I discovered I had HIGHLY underestimated my sons writing capabilities. Though we hadn't spent any detailed work on writing, his skills were NOT the "reluctant 2nd grade writer" that I thought he was. THUS I had to make a decision with this book before we could move forward. 

If you use this book as it is designed using the schedule that is given (see above photos) it goes at a great speed, is very gentle and there are great ways to custom fit it to your student's capabilities.

BECAUSE of this, I found it very easy to adapt it to fit Little Britches in what I knew he needed. The main thing that I did was skip the guided writing practice for each day, and instead do all (or most) of the daily activities for the actual writing process. 

Here is what can be expected in the activities for each lesson:

*Pre-Writing: This typically included reading a book pertaining to the theme of the lesson (every lesson has a different theme)
 *Brainstorming: Teaching your child about how to throw out a lot of ideas before ever narrowing it down to what you want to write about. This can include charts, worksheets, or oral discussion
*The Writing Project: Here we learn what we are going to be writing and we write our rough draft using our ideas from the brainstorming session.
*Editing and Revising: You do just that--look back over and make any changes to what you wrote
*Activity Set Worksheet: This worksheet coordinates to what is being learned during the lesson
*Publishing the Project: making a final draft with a craft project or other activity
*Evaluating Student's Work: using a checklist provided to note their degree of accomplishment in their weekly writing

I decided to focus on these activities for each lesson as this was what I felt we needed to work on. The evaluation included in the teachers guide was not very useful for me as I it is geared to a beginning writer without any writing experience. It noted things like "student starts at left side of paper", "student uses capital letters and end marks".

If there is any advance prep work that needs to be done to get ready for the writing project, it is clearly noted in the teachers guide.

There are 10 lessons in the book. We did not do all the lessons, because some of them I truly felt were TOO easy--even as the writing activity. What I did was examine each lesson to see what the writing project was and determine whether it was going to be too easy or not. I started out with a couple easy ones, but then moved on to more difficult ones. Just because I skipped certain lessons does not mean that I still didn't use something from them. There were some GREAT pre-writing ideas that we'd never done before, that I believed to be very useful and made sure we completed them.

One of these activities was to make Word Bank Folders to keep in one place words (nouns and adjectives) all related to a particular subject or theme. We simply printed them into a file folder with a cover photo. We made one for Seasons and for Trains.
Making a Word Bank Folder
A second activity that we did was to make a story idea file. In the teachers guide they suggested you did this using and index card box...but I liked the idea of keeping it in a file folder, so we did it using post-it notes. We wrote down words that might be fun to use in a story and then two words describing that word on each post-it. We put all of these in our story file folder.

Another activity that I knew would be useful was to make some Word Family Flowers. I picked a few of the base word options (one for each vowel) and then printed off some flower pages that I made on Microsoft Word and had him complete them. These will be especially useful when we study poetry this year.
We did do some complete lessons which I will share with you now. Each time we completed one, the next one seemed to be even easier for him...and he took great pride in sharing them in their PUBLISHED form with the family when he was done. Here are some photos of the full writing projects we completed:

Lesson 2: All About Me

Lesson 3: Favorite Things
If you notice from the photo collage above he USED our story file to pick words to help him write his story. He LOVED having them to reference. And Baby Britches wanted to write a story. It was about a blue dinosaur and how a truck smashed it dead. LOL!
Lesson 4: Friends
We took this lesson further by writing a letter to his best friend at the end of the lesson and he used some of the words we brainstormed.

Lesson 5: Trains
The focus here was on how a story needs a title, a beginning, a middle and an end. I loved the train cars that he used to put his story together. You can see that we did a lot of brainstorming on the white board before he got started.

Lesson 10: Sequence of Events
The final lesson in the curriculum is all about writing stories with a sequence of events. The first aspect was to go through a series of pre-writing and learning the sequencing words. We read a book (Katy and the Big Snow) together. Next I wrote certain events from the story on sheets of paper and hid them in his bedroom. He found them and then put them in order according to the story. He enjoyed this activity. We brainstormed for a long time about what kind of story about vehicles he'd like to write about and he decided on a tractor.

As part of the writing he needed to come up with his sentences (5 total) for his story. The book suggested I make him 6 squares to write his story on. But since I knew he was doing a tractor and his story was about baling, I opted to make "haybales" for him to write his story on. He took a lot of time on this story and he enjoyed making his tractor for the "publishing". We put this up on the wall above their desks. He enjoyed reading his story to daddy.
Lesson 10: Sequencing Event Story about Vehicle

Using the schedule I had initially intended to use, this book would do 10 weeks of lessons. With our adaptation we used it over about 6 weeks doing it 3-5 days a week depending on the activity.

What Are Our Thoughts on the Product?

*Little Britches: 
I liked the coloring and crafts and the part where I published my writing. I kind of didn't like the writing, but it really wasn't that hard. I liked having stories when I was done. Oh but I didn't like having to write all my stories two times.

*My Thoughts
Let me start by admitting I FAR underestimated my son's writing skills and ended up choosing a program that was almost too easy for him--even by the final lesson. Knowing what I do now, he was FAR more suited for Book B than Book A. At first it was a challenge to think I could adapt this to work for us, but I remembered the reminder in the book itself to be FLEXIBLE. I found this to be a pro for the book--it shows you how much your child really knows!

My overall goal of this program was to get him writing mini-stories without having to pull teeth and I am happy to say we met that goal. He realizes now that writing "from scratch" isn't something scary. We learned the benefits of having word files, and a story ideas file. 

As to the program itself, I think it's a great curriculum and it's very easy to use. Everything is laid out so that it takes the "thinking" out of it on behalf of the teacher. The guided writing practice that we skipped, though not useful for us, WOULD be very useful for a younger student. The program shows how brainstorming can be done in many different ways for coming up with story ideas. The writing projects are both simple and fun and the published projects are great for putting into portfolios.

I like that throughout the lessons there are options for simplifying the lessons as well as taking them to the next level. This would be very useful for using it to teach multiple children at once.

My favorite thing about this program is that BECAUSE it was a bit easier than I had hoped, it meant my son wrote with confidence and moved through the activities with ease. I didn't hear very many complaints during our writing process which is a great recommendation.

Would I Recommend WriteShop?

I would definitely recommend the WriteShop curriculum to people looking for a solid writing curriculum that is both easy to teach and to learn. I think the Write Shop Primary: Book A is definitely geared to a K or 1st grade level just like it says...but it is absolutely possible to use it for a reluctant writer in 2nd grade to give them more writing confidence. The book is very easy to adapt to your needs and very thorough in teaching the writing process itself. The book includes a lot of hands on projects and activities which always make teaching easier--but you could just stick with the basic writing if your child doesn't do well with those things.

The Primary Activity Pack is reproducible, making it ideal for families with more than one student in the course and the course itself gives ideas on how to teach more than one level at once.

I was very pleased with this curriculum and I definitely see myself using it again for my youngest son when he gets into Kindergarten. I am strongly considering purchasing the next book in the series to use for Little Britches this coming year.

Want To Learn More About WriteShop?

We reviewed the Write Shop Primary: Book A ($29.95) with the Primary Activity Pack, Book A ($5.95). You have heard our thoughts on this program, but there are more levels in this series...hop on over to see even more reviews by click the graphic below!
Click to read Crew Reviews

Looking to connect with WriteShop? You can find them on these social media sites:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/writeshop 
Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/writeshop
Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/writeshop/boards/
Google+: https://plus.google.com/+Writeshop/ 

Thanks for checking out my review today! Tune in later this week for my weekly bit of rambling--and if you are interested in seeing MORE of my curriculum or product reviews, make sure you visit the page I have devoted just for these!
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